Fertility Advice 'Needs Improving' For Young Breast Cancer Patients

Charity Finds Fertility-Related Shortfalls In Breast Cancer Treatment

21.11.2014

Significant improvements are needed to the fertility-related advice given to young women who are diagnosed with breast cancer to make sure they are fully aware of their options, according to a new report.

The charity Breast Cancer Care carried out a survey involving 170 patients with the condition aged 45 and under to find out their experiences, discovering that only 12 per cent had been referred to a fertility specialist to discuss their options.

This is despite chemotherapy often resulting in an early menopause or stopping the ovaries from working, meaning women may not be able to have children in the future.

Breast Cancer Care says that if these findings are typical for patients throughout the UK, in the region of 5,000 women could be missing out on fertility treatment because they do not know that it could be available to them.

This is a somewhat worrying statistic, as all patients should be able to make informed decisions on their care and how it may affect their life in the long term.

In addition, the charity asked a number of healthcare professionals about their views on the matter, with 26 per cent revealing there is currently no clear system in place for referring patients to fertility specialists.

Chief executive of Breast Cancer Care Samia al Qadhi commented: "This is an unacceptable situation, as breast cancer is a disease which robs many women of a chance to start a family.

"We urgently need all healthcare professionals to talk to women about their fertility options at the point of diagnosis."

Research has shown that if a woman is aged 35 or under when she receives chemotherapy, it is more likely her periods will start up again following the course of treatment, as it often disrupts the menstrual cycle.

Yet there are calls for more females of all ages to be referred for fertility advice with a specialist consultant after receiving treatment for cancer, as this could potentially lead to more falling pregnant or simply just understanding the full effect of the drugs on their body.

Expert Opinion
Patient care should always be a top priority, which means ensuring those undergoing treatment for breast cancer are fully informed of all their options. It is vital patients of childbearing age are referred to fertility specialists to discuss their family plans and it is extremely concerning that as many as 5,000 women could be missing out on this crucial service.

“It is crucial a clear system and process is implemented to ensure patients are able to access all the information they require about their treatment and the impact it will have on their lives.”
Mandy Luckman, Partner